Knit shop to turn waste into warmth for homeless NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

The extra yarn lying around the C.J.W. Knit Designs shop in Savage Mill won't go to waste.

Soon, it will be knitted into rectangular swatches and joined together into afghans for area homeless shelters.


Christiane Williams, the owner of C.J.W. Knit Designs, is coordinating the project as part of a national effort by knitting shops to do their part for the homeless.

The program, called Warm Up America, was launched by Evie Rosen, a knitting store owner in Wausau, Wis. The simple premise is to recruit volunteers to knit or crochet 7-by-9-inch swatches and assemble each group of 49 into an afghan.


Like C.J.W. Knit Designs, knitting stores throughout the country have become involved in the project.

"I was very attracted to this idea because it's something that anybody can do who has leftover yarn," said Ms. Williams, who designs sweaters and teaches knitting at her Savage store.

In the week since she sent out media releases and distributed fliers announcing the large-scale knitting project, Ms. Williams said she's received about 30 responses from willing knitters.

She's asked the volunteers to spread the word about the project and let her know how many squares they can complete by month's end. The plan is to set aside two days to assemble the squares into afghans.

Ms. Rosen, the founder of Warm Up America and owner of the Knitting Nook shop, said she started the project three years ago out of frustration with the growing homeless problem.

"I know an awful lot of people with an awful lot of yarn and it seemed to be something we could all do," Ms. Rosen said.

"People who hadn't knitted since the second World War are knitting again and enjoying it," she said.

The Knitting Nook even taught students in four fourth-grade classes to knit.


Warm Up America went national in January with financial help from the the National Needlework Association and the Hand Knitting Association, Ms. Rosen said.

She estimates that the project has made 750 afghans for homeless shelters.

Ms. Williams said it's difficult to predict how quickly the local project will move along, but she hopes to have enough afghans (( ready by Christmas for children staying at the Grassroots homeless shelter in Columbia.

Beyond that, the goal is to complete 100 afghans by mid-1993.

Ms. Williams, who came to this country from France 26 years ago, said she sees the knitting effort as her contribution to society.

"This particular issue is touching the hearts of a lot of people. It doesn't take very much to look around and see the poverty," Ms. Williams said.


"I've seen people sleeping in some of the playgrounds not too far from where I live," said the College Park resident.

Even those who don't know how to knit can participate, because Ms. Williams is offering basic knitting and crocheting classes at her shop. She also provides volunteers with free knitting and crocheting patterns for the squares.

She plans to contact some of her yarn suppliers to see if they'd be interested in donating some yarn to the project.

And Ms. Williams will be making some squares herself on the knitting machines in her store.

Anyone interested in participating in Warm Up America or donating yarn and supplies may contact Ms. Williams at 490-9028.